I was delighted to receive a copy of the brand new Eerdman’s Companion to the Bible. It’s a beautiful hardback volume with some of my favourite Bible scholars listed as General Editors in large letters. Gordon Fee is a first rate biblical scholar hailing from Regent College, Vancouver author of an epic commentary on Corinthians and editor of the New International Commentary on the New Testament series produced by Eerdmans. Robert L Hubbard is the editor of the Old testament series and I really enjoyed his commentary on Jonah in that series. This is a substantial volume packing some 800 pages with contributions from other world class scholars including : Robert Gundry, Tremper Longman et al.
But what is a companion to the Bible? Is it a Bible dictionary? – not quite though you will find some interesting articles on the Pentateuch, Archaeology, the Bible and the contemporary church. Is it a commentary well not quite – there is an overview given of each book of the Bible and a running commentary not of individual verses but of exegetical chunks of scripture. I am preaching on 1 Peter 1: 13-20 this weekend and so took a little look at the comments – they were brief but robust . To be honest I think many people will probably use this book as a one volume commentary and have a quick skim through a few of the articles. I wanted to check who had written the commentary on 1 Peter and that’s when my eyes noticed the smallest text on the front cover of the book stated: “with commentary by Connie Gundry Tappy.” I double checked inside and yes Ms Tappy has written the commentary on the whole Bible. The list of scholars on the back of the book teach at renowned seminaries such as Fuller, Westmont, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School so I looked for bio on Connie. She is a freelance journalist. Now I believe that journalists have a profound and important calling but must admit to be surprised that despite having available all the scholars you could ever need to compile a one voilume commentary on the Bible none of them actually wrote the commentary, it was left to someone who doesn’t have expertise (as far as her biography tells us) in biblical studies instead.
So I am left with a dilemma can I recommend this book and if so to whom?
If you need a one volume Bible commentary – this book is not nearly as good as the IVP New Bible Commentary (in any of its editions). Each book of the Bible has commentary provided by world class biblical scholars. So you should be able to pick up a reasonably priced second hand one if you can’t afford to buy new. If you need a Bible dictionary again IVP would serve you well as would Baker’s online offering which is available for free. If you need access to some reference articles by major Bible scholars on a range of topics not an exhaustive dictionrary and a non technical general commentary maybe this book is for you. But Eerdmans you have such a heritage of great writing I am surprised in a time of economic challenge you would produce this strange hybrid. I am sorry to find it hard to recommend your book, but many thanks for sending it to me.
If you are ready to make the transition to digital publishing this is a very good deal:
If there’s only one thing you buy from this list – this is it! This CDROM packs a shelf full of great reference works onto your hard drive which means not only can you save the rainforest you can also save yourself a fortune. Most books you will want to read in print format – but to have some classic reference works available at the click of a mouse is brilliant. The folowing works are a fantastic resource in their own right and well worth buying in print if you are not a fan of computer based resources.
New Bible Dictionary (3rd edition)
New Bible Commentary (3rd edition)
New Dictionary of Theology
Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels
Dictionary of Paul and his Epistles
Old and New Testament background Commentary
What you get is top quality evangelical scholarship in the most user friendly format possible. It costs £100 which is amazing value as most of the books are £35 each in print.